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June 08, 2008

Plurk: Social Media Marketing in Action

My Plurkstream
Messages appear in a horizontal stream on Plurk

Something interesting happened last Sunday. Plurk, a new social network, grew it's subscriber base from a handful of beta users to over 2,000 in one day. Since then they've continued to grow exponentially. As a marketer, and one of the 2,000+, I think it's been a fascinating process to watch. In this one week we've seen some very effective marketing strategies in action. Back in March I shared my reflections on social media networking and marketing, but that was more a tale of slow growth. Plurk's rapid growth gives us a chance to look at some of the techniques they used and see how effective they can be.

Social media marketing, like other forms of viral marketing, depends on getting your customer base to help market your product or service by spreading the word among their friends. But, as with any type of marketing campaign, it helps to have a good product and a keen understanding of your target market. Plurk has both (you can learn more about the service in the Plurk resources list at the end of this entry).

Attract the attention of the media & influential users in your target audience.

Plurk did both by attracting the attention of Leo Laporte, who is both a popular technology journalist and a very active social media user—as is of this writing Leo is the most followed person on Twitter with over 41,418 followers. Last Sunday, Leo sent Plurk invitations out to his friends and followers on Twitter and Pownce and spread the word through his various media enterprises such as TWiT.TV.

When I saw the invitation last Sunday I paused briefly and asked myself, "Do I really need to go experiment with yet another social media service?" The fact that it came from Leo Laporte—rather than someone with less credibility—influenced my decision. New services pop up all the time, but if Leo had singled it out, it was probably worth exploring. So I clicked the link and there I was on Plurk.

Make it easy and compelling for new users to invite more new users.

Social networks are only interesting if you know other people, hence the term: social. After spending a few minutes exploring the service it was time to acquire more friends. In this world the best way to do that is to recruit the friends you have on other social media sites. These early adopters are more likely to play with the new toys than are your friends from the real world.

Plurk made this very easy. In addition to providing the usual "invite the friends from your e-mail address book" interface, they also provide an invitation link that you can post on your blog or other social networks. I posted mine on Pownce and FriendFeed and people started joining up. Others on Pownce and Twitter did so too. Within hours Plurk was switching servers to handle the load. (If you would like to join in the fun, here is your invitation to join us on Plurk.)

Keep them coming back for more.

Social media users aren't so much fickle as they are demanding. With so many services available, and only limited time to use them, most users stick with the 1-3 services that help them with their own goals and productivity. If a service like Plurk offers more useful features it may draw some of the crowd away from others that are lacking such features or that experience a lot of downtime.

For users to understand these features you have to get them involved fast and early—and keep them coming back for more. In doing so you will create a usage habit.

Plurk mascots
After reaching 25 Karma points I was able
to upgrade from the "rabid dog" to the
"mutant fish."

The Plurk team understood this from the start. They've included a feature called Karma that induces people to Plurk actively—and often—to accumulate Karma points. By inviting more friends and posting messages users can reach certain Karma levels that give them additional features such as the ability to pick from more choices of Plurk mascot creatures (curious critters that sit on your home stream) or additional emoticons one can include in posts.

While these features aren't necessary to the Plurk experience, they do make it more fun. The goal of accumulating Karma also taps into the competitive streak of social media users—many of whom actively try to get their stories on the front page of Digg, acquire the most followers on Twitter, and so forth. Already I've seen numerous posts from users comparing Karma points.

Conclusions

In the right market, social media marketing—in combination with a useful product, site or service—can be very effective. While I don't know how many users are on Plurk as of today, Alexa rankings show that their page rank has gone up by 619,776 in the past three months, while the percentage of global Internet users on the service increased by 2,490%.

Will this growth continue? Who knows? Perhaps in three months time we'll all be using some other cool service with a funny name, but for now Plurk's marketing efforts seem right on track.

Plurk Resources
Social Media & Marketing Resources
June 10th update

As of this evening, according to Plurk Top Users there are 7,651 Plurkers. Thus the group has almost quadrupled since Sunday.

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Posted by: Heidi Cool June 8, 2008 05:27 PM | Category: Heidi's Entries , Social Networking , Web 2.0 , marketing , social media

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Comments

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Heidi, thanks for the mention.

I've never heard of the Leo guy before, but that's not how I found out about Plurk.

Someone recommended Plurk to me prior to the Sunday release, but I have no idea who!

Got to hand it to the guys behind Plurk, it's a fascinating, lively and fun place to hang out...

Posted by Wayne Smallman on June 8, 2008 06:42 PM

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Wayne,
As long as you keep writing interesting stuff that fits in with my posts, I'll keep linking! You've never heard of Leo? He's broadcasting live video of This Week in Tech live (TWiT) right now. I started following him on Pownce awhile back and am subscribed to the TWiT podcast. He covers some interesting stuff. I think you'd like the podcast.

What really struck me was how quickly other Powncers were posting their invite links after Leo's went out. Suddenly everybody was jumping on board. After we got over inviting each other then we were all watching each others Plurk posts to find our fellow Powncers. That was still going on by Monday night as well though by then I'd found most of my comrades.

Posted by Heidi Cool on June 8, 2008 06:50 PM

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Thanks for feeding my Plurk habit!

Now I'm off to use Flock to Plurk. Gotta love these Web 2.0 names. :)

Posted by ThinkingSerious on June 8, 2008 08:28 PM

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I had never heard of Leo either, but a friend of mine follows him, and it was my friend that introduced me to Plurk.

I am really enjoying Plurk, and as Wayne said, it is a fascinating, lively and fun place to hang out.

I would like to add, however, something I consider I major PLUS. What has really impressed me is how quickly Plurk is responding to user input. The best example being how they integrated a "Twitter Import" so quickly. It worked flawlessly for adding all my friends from Twitter in effortless fashion.

I think this already puts them way ahead of the game!

Posted by Twila Marie on June 8, 2008 08:30 PM

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Good golly! Leo Laporte is an ENORMOUS deal and got me into all of my favorite podcasts and webshows-- heck, as a result of one of his episodes, I went out and purchased an exercise ball to use at my computer instead of a chair.

(Needless to say, it hasn't worked so well, but some people swear by it!)

It's amazing what one big name can do for a service. (Actually, kind of a shame, too.)

Posted by Andy DeSoto on June 8, 2008 09:45 PM

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Plurk has many interesting components that make it stand out from the crowd. This is certainly why it is catching on so quickly. I wonder if they will continue to be interesting and innovative in the long run. What is "the long run" in web 2.0 time?

Posted by Vaughn on June 8, 2008 10:22 PM

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Vaughn,
That's a great question. Things happen so fast that 6 months can be a long time. Perhaps we won't really know for sure until we find ourselves in something that we'll one day recognize as Web 3.0 and can look back in hindsight.

Twila, I'll have to check out the Twitter import tool. Do they have one yet for Pownce I wonder?

Posted by Heidi Cool on June 8, 2008 10:42 PM

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There really are some odd names in this online world, aren't there?

I've read about Plurk but didn't really get what the big deal was about it. Now that I've read your post and also followed some of the links you included in it (thanks!) I might just have to go check it out for myself. If it's up more than Twitter, that's a good start!

Posted by Ann Cummings on June 9, 2008 09:10 AM

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Not a fan of Plurk. With all its uptime issues Twitter remains my favorite. The simple and clean interface and 140 character challenge seems ideal.

Once you get into Karma action you start entering the world of MySpace. It's back to high school and who's the most popular kid.

Posted by dave on June 9, 2008 09:31 AM

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Ann, yes they do have weird names. I think the goal is for each to be memorable and easily modified into noun, verb and adjectival forms.

Dave, I think different users will always prefer different services. Plurk is easier for me to follow than Twitter because I am used to the threaded discussions of Pownce. But Pownce is still my primary because I rely on more than 140 characters.

For example on Saturday I asked "What is your preferred presentation software?" on both Plurk and Pownce. The consensus on both services was Keynote. But on Pownce I had provided more information in my question, and the responses did as well. Rather than merely answering, they gave reasons as to why they preferred what they did and included ideas on how they had done things in the past.

As for Karma, you find people on Facebook, Twitter, Pownce, FriendFeed, etc. clamoring to have the most friends/followers to be considered popular, so I don't think karma is any more competitive. But as (I believe) Robert Scoble said awhile back it is likely that there is more value for most users to follow many people than there is in being followed. Keeping tracks of others gives you access to information that may be more useful than large readership.

Also as karma points are rendered using some algorithm that includes posting activity as well as friends one is rewarded more for participation than in merely accruing followers.

There will be stuff and nonsense interspersed with wisdom and knowledge on any of these services, so I think the trick is just to find one with the services and people you like.

Posted by Heidi Cool on June 9, 2008 02:28 PM

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I found plurk on the 4th of June and have been hooked. I didn't like on twitter how if asked a question and someone replied 3 hours later I had no clue what they were talking about unless the basically restated the question which is hard to do with 140 characters. Also it's tough to have a conversation with anyone or be very active without totally overflowing less active members pages.

Plurk let's you tune into what you want. I think it's going to be around for a while and I"ll do what I can to help spread the word.

Great post!

Posted by Bloggeries on June 10, 2008 09:11 PM

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Great article on a fun social medium... I have been enjoying the site for a little more than a week now, and wrote a little article over on my blog... http://www.changeforge.com/2008/06/03/twitter-ego-plurk-fun/

Posted by Ken Stewart on June 10, 2008 10:51 PM

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Bloggerie, I agree it is much easier to follow things that happened while you weren't watching. On Twitter I can't keep up. Not that I can keep up here either, but I think I can catch up with a lot more Plurks than I can Tweets.

Ken, Nice review! I stumbled it.

Posted by Heidi Cool on June 11, 2008 12:40 AM

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Great article and helpful resource. It is not always the growth that is hard to gain, but the ability to sustain it. It will be interesting to see how well Plurk manages its future.

Posted by Mechanic on June 13, 2008 10:32 AM

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great article heidi!

time will only tell us but they are definitely going some interesting things!

Posted by Successfool on June 18, 2008 02:49 PM

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Analytics is great, but Google has abandoned their Urchin following and have not released an update since their acquisition.

Posted by Jarod Clark on June 27, 2008 12:01 PM

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Hi Heidi,

I have been involved with Plurk just a bit after yourself and wrote about my desertion from Twitter to Plurk about 3 weeks ago, if you fancy checking it out ...
http://www.northsouthmedia.co.uk/wordpress/index.php/2008/06/25/twitter-is-dead-long-live-plurk-or-some-other-stupid-named-micro-blogging-platform/

Posted by Paul on July 14, 2008 02:21 PM

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Great stuff! Plurk definitely has a great marketing campaign going for them... now if only we could figure out how to use the site. ;)

Posted by Quote Catcher Website Design on July 18, 2008 04:24 PM

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Never used them, but after this review I definitely will check it. Thanks

Posted by Yolanda on July 18, 2008 05:46 PM

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I love viral marketing campaigns. I've been using twitter for quite a while now. Thought about plurk, but wasn't sure I wanted / needed a second micro-blogging site cluttering up my mind, computer, desktop...although most of the people I follow, use both systems. But in the interests of testing to see which one had / has the best functionality etc I'm on both. I'm like that - run two similar yet not things to see which one I like the best. At the moment, my time is spent on online research - and am testing both google notes and corralmystuff (http://www.corralmystuff.com/students)...the former is free, the latter cost just under $20 ... so far the paid for version is working better (imho) given I have a lot of different research streams happening at any one time. But time as they say will tell....
Just like twitter, plurk or whatever the next micro blogging site will be....things move on so quickly, it's an interesting time in the online world.
Kind Regards
Elle

Posted by Elle Raunston on July 23, 2008 09:43 PM

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It's been almost 2 months since this post & I don't hear much more talk about twitter. So what about FriendFeed.

The reason I like friendfeed so much is because the fact that they encompass so many of the social behaviors all on one platform.

Plurk is still good IMO though.

alejandro

Posted by Social Media Marketing on July 25, 2008 03:04 AM

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Thank you for this article. This is the first time I have heard of Plurk!

Posted by ultimate wealth package on July 29, 2008 06:38 PM

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Plurk is very cool, but the problem I have is that I can't see to find a way to integrate it into Tweets. As many problems as Twitter has had with service problems in the past, it's still the 800 lb gorilla. Obviously that can change very quickly in the virtual, fickle world, but the ability to have them sent directly to Twitter would be nice. We have that capability with our blog post in WP and love it.

I love Friendfeed because it aggregates all the social networking stuff in one place.

Posted by Andy Renk on August 22, 2008 08:53 PM

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I've been using Twitter and Jott daily. I've never heard of Plurk, but I'm signing up for an account now. Thanks for the advice.

Posted by Mike on September 3, 2008 06:28 PM

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Twitter is for me! It has had a lot of down time, but the ui is way nicer and easier to understand.

Posted by Kevin on October 30, 2008 03:59 PM

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I really like the graphical representation of Plurk, but Twitter is very appealing because it's very simple, it works on any device as it is text based and all updates are less than 160 characters. Twitter is kicking off big time in the UK at the moment btw.

Yunus
Imperial Leisure / Social Media Agency
http://www.imperialleisure.com

Posted by Imperial Leisure on January 30, 2009 03:57 AM

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I really enjoy twitter. When I started my new job they said twitter, twitter, twitter all the time. i never saw the need for it until a huge segment of our referral traffic came from twitter. It's hard to tell if we have made any sales but still having people visit our site doesn't hurt.

Posted by Colin Waters on February 17, 2009 08:00 PM

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Posted by: hac4 (Heidi Cool) June 8, 2008 05:27 PM | Comments (27) | Trackback